Whether it’s attempting to get over a toxic relationship or putting in the effort to fix your marriage, admitting to a need for a therapist to smoothen out the kinks in your life is always a daunting task, especially given the prospect of being instantly met with frowns and raised eyebrows.
In the United States alone, 59 million Americans seek help from mental health care professionals annually. Yet, there still remains a strong stigma associated with undergoing therapy, such as the perception that only individuals who are grappling with mental health issues, or those who do not possess the strength to cope with personal issues, resort to visiting a therapist. However, this is a misconception that has been debunked by research and experts in psychology.
According to Ryan Howes, Ph.D., a California-based psychologist, “The benefits of therapy extend far beyond periods of crisis. Many people want more than to be ‘not depressed.’ They wonder what they can do to be the happiest, most productive, most loving version of themselves.” What this means is that one does not necessarily need to be experiencing an exceedingly challenging period before opting to see a therapist. In fact, therapy could work for individuals simply looking to better themselves.
But why is there a specific need to visit a therapist? Can’t the same objectives of embarking on a healing process or working towards self-improvement be met by speaking with a trusted friend or mentor? The short answer is “no”, primarily because your close pals or family are unlikely to be completely unbiased and objective. In fact, they may not even have time to sit down and have a full-length conversation about your feelings – not because they don’t want to, but because they run busy schedules too. In order to receive a comprehensive and balanced set of advice, it is most advisable to visit a mental health professional, who possesses both the time and expertise to properly guide you.
In the same way that most of us make the effort to visit our family doctor for frequent health check-ups or see the dentist biannually to maintain your oral health, dedicating time to looking after your mental health is just as – if not even more – important. Making the choice to go to therapy is not at all synonymous with being weak; rather, it shows that you’re willing to acknowledge your flaws and are seeking to improve on them. Receiving undivided attention and support from a specialist always helps, especially when you’re feeling stuck in a rut or overly stressed, and need to find a way out.
Instead of being ashamed about going to therapy, try owning it and enjoy the process! Think of it this way: You’re taking active steps to improve your overall health and wellbeing, rather than choosing the easy way out and resting on your laurels. If those around you start judging you because you’re undergoing therapy, why not take the opportunity to explain to them how your sessions have benefitted you? If they truly want the best for you, they will be supportive rather than dismissive or disparaging.